Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Being a monk has its advantages, such as having an influential boss

Citizen Staff Writer
A job made in heaven



The world would be a better place if we all became monks.

Well, some of us would have to become nuns. But the world would still be a better place.

This thought came melodiously meandering into my mind after I got off the phone from talking with a man named Losang Samten.

He’s a Tibetan scholar, teacher and former Buddhist monk who’s coming to Tucson on Feb. 15.

He’s being flown here to create a giant mandala out of sand at the University of Arizona BookStore.

Not bad for a monthlong gig.

In addition to creating gorgeous, intricate artwork, monks have it good in other areas, especially in an economy like this one.

Lodging and food are free. Clothes are inexpensive and pretty straightforward. You could probably get away with wearing that as-seen-on-TV product called a Snuggie, which is really just a massive blanket with arm holes.

You may not even have to wear shoes.

Most important, by far, is the mind-set that comes with the Buddhist monk life.

“Peace, harmony and hope,” Samten said. “We all have a potential to do better. It is important we never lose our hope.”

Talking with Samten is more soothing than a bubble bath, and cheaper than seeing a therapist.

He’s certainly had enough experience.

Samten knew he wanted to be a monk at the tender age of 11. He was fully entrenched in monkhood by the age of 16.

Monk careers offer clear direction. Spiritual advancement. Easy-to-maintain haircuts.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama directed Samten to the United States in 1988, when he landed in New York City.

He went on to create sand mandalas in top universities and museums, including the Met. Samten also served as religious technical adviser, sand mandala supervisor and an actor in Martin Scorsese’s film “Kundun.”

Major art exposure. Trips. Your name in those rolling movie credits.

Samten only left monkhood when he chose to expand his teaching and scholarship roles.

Monks and nuns aren’t ones to get laid off. Be sure, too, their boss won’t ever go out of business.

Job security. Advancement. A face that stays agelessly calm and serene.

Now 55, Samten still enjoys passing on the fruits of his learnings, both from his days in the monastery and from being brought up in a spiritual atmosphere.

His family fled his native Tibet when he was 6, first landing in Nepal and then India.

“Being born into that kind of country,” he said, “we were influenced by Buddhism and the ideas of caring, loving, kindliness, compassion.”

Not Wall Street, greed, domination and power.

Of course, he had words of wisdom to help Americans through the current tumult. Of course, his message involved hope.

“We’ll never lose hope if we really work together,” he said. “If we work together, we will create our dream, and work toward bringing that dream and reality together.”

As good as he sounds, Samten did admit, even as a monk, he could have a bad day.

“We are all human beings,” he said. “Life is up and down, any life, like the weather: One day it’s sunny, one day it’s rainy.”

But the trick is not to let the rain drown you out.

“I remind myself what I think is meaningful in my life,” he said, “and what I can do to help promote what is the important thing in everybody’s life.”

He’s not talking Ferraris and nine-bedroom homes, but rather a connection with others and the universe – not to mention a healthy dash of hope.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who wants a Snuggie whether she becomes a monk or not. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

E-mail job leads and comments to rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

‘If we work together, we will create our dream, and work toward bringing that dream and reality together.’


Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service